Sunday, 7 June 2015

Then and Now : A First Class Train Journey

Rarely do I travel First Class which is perhaps why it is always so memorable for me, for a variety of reasons.


The timing of the train required some consideration. It was important to avail oneself maximally of the free bar service and nibbly food. It had to be early, but not too early, bearing in mind that once I’d started drinking I would continue and once I start drinking there is a finite number of hours until I ‘fall asleep’.

For my journey I had an array of reading material ranging from magazines requiring little concentration to documents that counted as work. It didn’t really matter because I never really read anything properly because I was observing the stewards and their work routines, keeping half an eye on the lookout for the service trolley. 

It is hard to miss it though. It can be heard clinking and twinkling as glass and cans bump against ice buckets and cups. The stewards offer their array. What would I like? I pretend to consider the question, wearing a look of first surprise, then uncertainty followed with a distinct nod to confirm that yes, I would indeed treat myself to a glass of white wine. Oh and another too, yes, go on then, why not?

Despite the anticipation, the wine would disappoint. A generic white variety. Not particularly well chilled and served in a plastic ‘glass’. Not that any of that would stop me from drinking it you understand.

And I had all the food offered. The snacks, the lite bites, and every course of the evening meal. There is something about free stuff that makes it irresistible, especially when alcohol has loosened my control over what I eat.

I considered the rate at which I drank: fast enough to ensure room for a healthy top up when the trolley made its return journey but not so fast as to be notable to my travel companions.

As well as regular service and top ups, the best thing that can happen on the train is the staff to change at Preston. A fresh crew board the train and take over the provision of service anew. Imagine, the drinks trolley coming around and no-one knowing how much I’d already had! (Unless the other passengers were keeping count?)
Time to hide the evidence of that which had gone before and get ready to act surprised, considered and accepting of the first drink offered.

I arrive at my destination, over full, slightly drunk with an intense foraging want for more of the same.


I look forward to a productive train journey. Five hours of peace and quiet to do as I choose. I time the train to optimise my arrival at the destination. I have a bag of my favourite snacking food bought at the station. Some of it over-priced, but never mind, I'm worth it! I  look forward to an unlimited supply of tea, diet coke and sparkling water once on the train.

The drinks trolley begins its work. I watch others consider their options and choose their poison. I am fascinated by the drinking habits of others. Some, I can tell are as I was: pretending to be startled, not having heard the clanking of bottles of booze, before a fun flippant acceptance of a beer as if this was no big deal. Another has had one beer and looks shocked to be offered another. A lady with a half glass of wine remaining asks if coffee is available and a gentleman, later offered port with his cheese and biscuits, shrugs as he accepts and pops the bottle away in his briefcase. 

The ‘free’ food is no longer appealing. It never was really but it lent some acceptability to the booze and tackled the emerging munchies. It is a cheap perk and it’s not really free. We do pay for it, often in more ways than one. I eat my chosen snacks mindfully throughout the journey.

I read, catch up on emails, do a little work then reward myself with magazine time. I arrive fresh and relaxed, having enjoyed the ‘me’ time but now ready to get my plans underway. 

I’m so pleased to be no longer beholden to booze.


  1. We don't have many trains here in Minnesota, and I wish we had more!
    I like watching what people drink on airplanes, not that I go on many trips.
    Or at a party.
    The "free" snack foods on airplanes are down to 3 peanuts, and 2 baby pretzels!!
    I am happier traveling sober, too!!

  2. Great post Rachel! I love your now and then stories.
    It's funny how we think the food is free on planes/trains, when in actual fact we have paid for them in the fare. It must be so much nicer eating the snacks you brought along and actually enjoy!
    To be free of this evil drug is a blessing.
    A x


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